Part 5 out of 7
seek Ambrose to-day? Ambrose has returned."
"Have you seen him?" cried Hobb joyfully.
"Early this morning," said Heriot.
"Down yonder in Poverty Bottom," said Heriot, pointing south of his
barn to a hollow that went by that name. For there was a dismal
habitation that had fallen into decay, a skeleton of a hut with only
two rotting walls, and a riddled thatch for a roof. And it was worse
than no habitation at all, for what might have been a green and
lovely vale was made desolate and rank with disused things, rusting
among the lumber of bricks and nettles. It was enough to have been
there once never to go again. And Hobb had been there once.
But now, at Heriot's tidings, he ran down the hill a second time as
though it led to Paradise, calling Ambrose as he went. And getting
no answer he began to fear that either Heriot was mistaken, or
Ambrose had gone away. His fears were unfounded, for coming to the
Bottom he found Ambrose; yet he had to look twice to make sure it
was he. For he was dressed only in rags, and less in rags than
nakedness; and his skin was dirty and his hair unkempt. He was
stooping about the ground gathering flints dropped through, and a
small trail of them marked his passage over the rank grass.
Hobb strode towards him with dread in his bosom, and laid his hand
on Ambrose's wild head, saying his name again. And at this his
brother looked up and eyed him childishly, and said "Who is
Ambrose?" And then the dread in Hobb took a definite shape, and he
saw with horror that Ambrose had lost his wits. At that knowledge,
and the sight of his neglected body and pitiful foolish smile, Hobb
turned away and sobbed. But Ambrose with a little random laugh
continued to drop flints in his bottomless bucket. And no word of
Hobb's could win him from that place.
Then Hobb went back to the Burgh alone, and buried his face in his
hands, and thought. He thought of the evil which had fallen upon his
house, the nature of which was past his brothers' telling, and far
beyond his guessing. And he said to himself, "I have done the best I
could in governing the affairs of the Burgh and of our people, since
the others were younger than I; but I see I have been selfish,
keeping safety for my portion while they went into danger. And now
there is none to set this evil right but I, and if I can I must
follow the way they went, and do better than they at the end of it.
And if I fail--as how should I succeed where they have not?--and if
like them I too must suffer the dreadful loss of a part of myself,
let it be so, and I shall at least fare as they have fared, and we
will share an equal fate. Though what I have to lose I know not, to
match their bright and noble qualities."
Then he called his steward, and gave all the affairs of the Burgh
into his hands, and bade him have an eye to his brothers as far as
possible, and to consult Heriot in any need, since he was the only
one who could in the least be relied on. And then he walked out of
the Burgh as he was, and went where his feet took him. He had not
been walking half-an-hour when a sudden blast of wind tore the cap
from his head, and blew it into the very middle of a pond.
Now the pond was exceedingly muddy, and as it seemed to Hobb rather
deep, and he was wondering whether his old cap were worth wading
for, and had almost decided to abandon it, when he saw a skinny
yellow arm, like a frog's leg, stretch up through the water, and a
hand that dripped with slime grope for his cap. With three strides
he was in the pond, and he caught the cap and the hand together in
his fist. The hand writhed in his, but Hobb was too strong for it;
and with a mighty tug he dragged first the shoulder and then the
head belonging to the hand into view. They were the shoulder and
head of the muddy man whom you, dear maidens, have seen once before
in this tale, but whom Hobb had never seen till then. And Jerry
said, "Drat these losers of caps! will they NEVER be done with
disturbing the newts and me? Tis the fifth in a summer. And first
there's one with a step like a wagtail, and next there's one as bold
as a hawk, and after him one as comely as a wild swan, and last was
one as wise as an owl. And now there's this one with nothing
particular to him, but he grips as hard as all the rest rolled into
one. Drat these cap-losers!"
Then Hobb who, for all his surprise to begin with, and his increase
of excitement as the muddy creature spoke, had never slackened his
grasp, said, "Old man, you are welcome to my cap if you will tell me
what happened to the wearers of the four other caps after they left
"How do I know what happened to em?" growled the muddy man. "For
they all went to High and Over, and after that twas nobody's
business but Wind's, who lives there."
"Where's High and Over?" said Hobb.
"Find out," said the muddy man, and gave a wriggle that did him no
"I will," said Hobb, "for you shall tell me." And he looked so
sternly at the muddy man that Jerry cringed, moaning:
"I thought by his voice twas a turtle, but I see by his eye tis an
eagle. If you must know you must. And south of Cradle Hill that's
south of Pinchem that's south of Hobb's Hawth that's south of the
Burgh that's south of this pond is where High and Over is. And I'll
thank you to let me go."
Nevertheless, when Hobb released him Jerry forgot the thanks and
disappeared into the mud taking the cap with him. But Hobb did not
care for his thanks. He hurried south as fast as his feet would
carry him, going by the places he knew and then by those he did not,
till he came at nightfall to High and Over.
And on High and Over a great wind was blowing from all the four
quarters of heaven at once. And Hobb was caught up in the crossways
of the wind, and turned about and about till he was dizzy, and all
his thoughts were churning in his brain, so that he could not tell
one from the other. And at the very crisis of the churning a voice
in the wind from the north roared in his ear:
"What do you want that you lack?"
And a voice from the south murmured, "What is the wish of your
And a voice from the west sighed, "What is it that life has not
And a voice from the east shrieked, "What will you have, and lose
yourself to have?"
And Hobb forgot his brothers and why he was there, he forgot
everything but the dream of his soul which had been churned
uppermost in that turmoil, and he cried aloud, "A golden rose!"
Then the four voices together roared and murmured and sighed and
shrieked, "Open Winkins! Open Winkins! Open Winkins! Open Winkins!"
And the tumult ceased with a shock, and the shock of silence
overwhelmed Hobb with sickness and darkness, and his senses deserted
him. As he became unconscious he seemed to be, not falling to earth,
but rising in the air.
When he opened his eyes he was lying on his back in a strange world,
a world of trees, whose noble trunks rose up as though they were
columns of the sky, but their heaven was a green one, shutting out
daylight, yet enclosing a luminous haunted air of its own. Such
forests were unknown in Hobb's open barren land, and this alone
would have made his coming to his senses appear rather to be a
coming away from them. But he scarcely noticed his surroundings, he
was only vaguely aware of them as the strange and beautiful setting
of the strangest and most beautiful thing he had ever seen. For he
was looking into the eyes of the loveliest woman in the world. She
was bending above him, tall and slim and supple, her perfect body
clad in a deep black gown, the hem and bosom of which were
embroidered with celandines, and it had a golden belt and was lined
with gold, as he could see when the loose sleeves fell open on her
round and slender arms; and the bodice of the gown hung a little
away from her stooping body, and was embroidered inside, as well as
outside, with celandines, which made reflections on her white neck,
as they will on a pure pool where they lean to watch their April
loveliness. Her skin was as creamy as the petals of a burnet rose,
and her eyes were the color of peat-smoke, and her hair was as soft
as spun silk and fell in two great shining waves of the purest gold
over her bosom as she bent above him, and lay on the earth like
golden grass on green water. A tress of the hair had flowed across
his hand. And about her small fine head it was bound with a black
fillet, a narrow coil so sleek and glossy that it was touched with
silver lights, and this intense blackness made the gold of her head
more dazzling. And Hobb lay there bewildered under the spell of her
loveliness, asking nothing but to lie and gaze at it for ever.
But presently as he did not move she did, sinking upon her knees and
stooping closer so that her breast nearly rested on his own, and she
put her white hand softly on his forehead, and the smoke of her eyes
was washed with tears that did not fall, and she said in a tremulous
voice that fell on his ears like music heard in a dream, "Oh,
stranger, if you are not dying, speak and move."
Then Hobb raised himself slowly on his elbow, and as she did not
stir their faces were brought very close together; and not for an
instant had they taken their eyes from each other. And he said in a
low voice, not knowing either his voice or his own words, "I am not
dying, but I think I must be dead." And suddenly the woman broke
into a rain of tears, and she sank into his arms with her own about
his neck, and she wept upon his heart as though her own were
breaking. After a few moments she lifted her head and Hobb bent his
to meet her quivering mouth. But before his lips touched hers she
tore herself from his hold and fled away through the trees.
Hobb leaped to his feet, and scarcely knowing what he said cried,
"Love! don't be afraid!" and he made no attempt to follow her, but
stood where he was. He saw her halt in the distance, and turn, and
hesitate, and struggle with herself as to her coming or going. At
last she decided for the former, and came slowly between the pillars
of the trees until she stood but a few paces from him with lowered
lids. And she said sweetly, "Forgive me, stranger. But I found you
here like one dead, and when you opened your eyes the fear was still
on me, and when you moved and spoke the relief was too great, and I
forgot myself and did what I did."
Then Hobb said gently, but with his heart beating on his ribs as
fast as a swallow's wings beat the air, "I thought you did what you
did because at that moment you knew, and I knew also, that it was
your right for ever to weep and to laugh on my heart, and mine to
bear for ever your laughing and weeping. But if it was not with you
as with me, say so, and I will go away and not trouble you or your
strange woods again."
Then the woman came quickly to him, and seized his hands saying,
half agitated, half commanding, "It was with me as with you. And you
shall stay with me for ever in these woods, and I will give you the
desire of your life."
"And what shall I give you?" said Hobb.
"Whatever is nearest to yourself," she whispered, "the dearest
treasure of your soul." And she looked at him with eyes full of
passions which he could not fathom, but among them he saw terror.
And with great tenderness he drew her once more to his heart,
putting his strong and steady arms around her like a shield, and he
"Love whose name I do not know, what is nearer to myself than you,
what dearer treasure has my soul than you? If I am to give you this,
it is yourself I must give you; and I will restore to you whatever
it is that you have lost through the agony of your soul. Be at
peace, my love whose name I do not know." And holding her closely to
him he bent his head and kissed her lips; and a great shudder passed
through her, and then she lay still in his arms, with her strange
eyes half-closed, and slow tears welling between the lids and
hanging on her cheeks like the rain on the rose. And she let him
quiet her with his big hands that were so used to care for flowers.
Presently she lifted his right hand to her mouth, and kissed it
before he could prevent her. Next she drew herself a little away
from him, hanging back in his arms and gazing into his face as
though her soul were all a question and his was the answer that she
could not wholly read. And last she broke away from him with a
strange laugh that ended on a sob.
Hobb said, "Will you not tell me what makes you unhappy?"
"I have no unhappiness," she answered, and quenched her sob with a
smile as strange as her laugh. "My foolish lover, are you amazed
that when her hour comes a woman knows not whether she is happy or
unhappy? Oh, when joy is so great that it has come full circle with
pain, what wonder that laughter and weeping are one?"
And Hobb believed her, for ever since he had opened his eyes upon
her, he had felt in his own heart more joy than he could bear; and
he knew that for this there is no remedy except to find a second
heart to help in the bearing. And he knew it was the same with her.
But now he saw that she was free for awhile from the excess of joy;
and indeed these respites must happen even to lovers for their own
sakes, lest they sink beneath the heavenly burden of their hearts.
And her smile was like the diver's rise from his enchanted deeps to
take again the common breath of man; and Hobb also smiled and said,
"Come now, and tell me your name. For though love needs none for its
object, I think the name itself is eager to be made known and loved
beyond all other names for love's sake. As I love yours, whatever it
"My name," she said, "is Margaret."
"It is an easy name to love," said Hobb, "for its own sake."
"And what is yours?" asked she.
And Hobb's smile broadened as he answered, "Try to love it, for my
sake. For it is Hobb. Yet it is as fitting to me, who am as plain as
my name, as your lovely name is fitting to you."
She cast a quick sly look at him and said, "If love knows not how to
distinguish between joy and pain, since all that comes from the
heart of love is joy, neither can it tell the plain from the
beautiful, since all that comes under the eye of love is beauty. And
I will find all things beautiful in my lover, from his name to the
mole on his cheek."
For I know now, dear maidens, whether in describing him I had
mentioned this peculiarity of Hobb's.
(Jessica: You hadn't described him at all.
Martin: Well, now the omission is remedied.
Jessica: Oh fie! as though it were enough to say the man had a mole
on his left cheek!
Martin: Dear Mistress Jessica, did I say it was his left cheek?
Jessica: Why--why!--where else would it be?
Martin: Nowhere else, on my honor. It WAS his left cheek.)
Then Hobb said to Margaret, "What place is this?"
"It is called Open Winkins," said she, and at the name he started to
his feet, remembering much that he had forgotten. She looked at him
anxiously and cajolingly and said, "You are not going away?" But he
hardly heard her question. "Margaret," he said, "I have come from a
place that may be far or near, for I do not know how I came; but I
think it must be far, since I never saw this forest, or even heard
of it, till a moment before my coming. But I am seeking a clue to a
trouble that has come upon me this year, and I think the clue may be
here. And now tell me, have you in these last four months seen in
these woods anything of your people that are my brothers?--a child
that once was merry, and a boy that once was brave, and a youth that
once was beautiful, and a young man that once was wise? Have these
ever been to Open Winkins?"
Margaret looked at him thoughtfully and said, "If they have, I have
not seen them here. And I think they could not have been here
without my knowledge. For no one lives here but I, and I live
Hobb sighed and said, "I had hoped otherwise. For, dear, I cannot
rest until I have helped them." Then he told her as much as he knew
of his four brothers; and her face clouded as he spoke, and her eyes
looked hurt and angry by turns, and her beautiful mouth turned
sulky. So then Hobb put his arm round her and said, "Do not be too
troubled, for I know I shall presently find the cause and cure of
these boys' ills." But Margaret pushed his arm away and rose
restlessly to her feet, and paced up and down, muttering, "What do I
care for these boys? It is not for them I am troubled, but for
myself and you."
"For us?" said Hobb. "How can trouble touch us who love each other?"
At this Margaret threw herself on the grass beside him, and laid her
head against his knee, and drew his hands to her, pressing them
against her eyes and lips and throat and bosom as though she would
never let them go; and through her kisses she whispered
passionately, "Do you love me? do you truly love me? Oh, if you love
me do not go away immediately. For I have only just found you, but
your brothers have had you all their lives. And presently you shall
go where you please for their sakes, but now stay a little in this
wood for mine. Stay a month with me, only a month! oh, my heart, is
a month much to ask when you and I found each other but an hour ago?
For this time of love will never come again, and whatever other
times there are to follow, if you go now you will be shutting your
eyes upon the lovely dawn just as the sun is rising through the
colors. And when you return, you will return perhaps to love's
high-noon, but you will have missed the dawn for ever." And then she
lifted her prone body a little higher until it rested once more in
the curve of his arm against his heart, and she lay with her white
face upturned to his, and her dark soft eyes full of passion and
pleading, and she put up her fingers to caress his cheek, and
whispered, "Give me my little month, oh, my heart, and at the end of
it I will give you your soul's desire."
And not Hobb or any man could have resisted her.
So he promised to remain with her in Open Winkins, and not to go
further on his quest till the next moon. And indeed, with all time
before and behind him it did not seem much to promise, nor did he
think it could hurt his brothers' case. But the kernel of it was
that he longed to make the promise, and could not do otherwise than
make the promise, and so, in short, he made the promise.
Then Margaret led him to two small lodges on the skirts of the
forest; they were made of round logs, with moss and lichen still
upon them, and they were overgrown with the loveliest growths of
summer--with blackberry blossoms, a wonderful ghostly white, spread
over the bushes like fairies' linen out to dry, and wild roses more
than were in any other lovers' forest on earth, and the maddest
sweetest confusion of honeysuckle you ever saw. Within, the rooms
were strewn with green rushes, and hung with green cloths on which
Margaret had embroidered all the flowers and berries in their
seasons, from the first small violets blue and white to the last
spindle-berries with their orange hearts splitting their rosy rinds.
And there was nothing else under each roof but a round beech-stump
for a stool, and a coffer of carved oak with metal locks, and a low
mattress stuffed with lamb's-fleece picked from the thorns, and
pillows filled with thistledown; and each couch had a green covering
worked with waterlily leaves and white and golden lilies. "These are
the Pilleygreen Lodges," said she, "and one is mine and one is
yours; and when we want cover we will find it here, but when we do
not we will eat and sleep in the open."
And so the whole of that July Hobb dwelt in the Pilleygreen Lodges
in Open Winkins with his love Margaret. And by the month's end they
had not done their talking. For did not a young lifetime lie behind
them, and did they not foresee a longer life ahead, and between
lovers must not all be told and dreamed upon? and beyond these lives
in time, which were theirs in any case, had not love opened to them
a timeless life of which inexhaustible dreams were to be exchanged,
not always by words, though indeed by their mouths, and by the
speech of their hands and arms and eyes? Hobb told her all there was
to tell of the Burgh and his life with his brothers, both before and
after their tragedies, but he did not often speak of them for it was
a tale she hated to hear, and sometimes she wept so bitterly that he
had ado to comfort her, and sometimes was so angry that he could
hardly conciliate her. But such was his own gentleness that her
caprices could withstand it no more than the shifting clouds the
sun. And Margaret told him of herself, but her tale was short and
simple--that her parents had died in the forest when she was young,
and that she had lived there all her life working with her needle,
twice yearly taking her work to the Cathedral Town to sell; and with
the proceeds buying what she needed, and other cloths and silk and
gold with which to work. She opened the coffer in Hobb's lodge and
showed him what she did: veils that she had embroidered with cobwebs
hung with dew, so that you feared to touch them lest you should
destroy the cobweb and disperse the dew; and girdles thick-set with
flowers, so that you thought Spring's self on a warm day had loosed
the girdle from her middle, and lost it; and gowns worked like the
feathers of a bird, some like the plumage on the wood-dove's breast,
and others like a jay's wing; and there was a pair of blue skippers
so embroidered that they appeared and disappeared beneath a flowing
skirt with reeds and sallows rising from a hem of water, you thought
you had seen kingfishers; and there were tunics overlaid with
dragonflies' wings and their delicate jointed bodies of green and
black-and-yellow and Chalk-Hill blue; and caps all gay with autumn
berries, scarlet rose-hips and wine-red haws, and the bright briony,
and spindle with its twofold gayety, and one cap was all of wild
clematis, with the vine of the Traveler's Joy twined round the brim
and the cloud of the Old Man's Beard upon the crown. And Hobb said,
"It is magic. Who taught you to do this?" And Margaret said, "Open
Early in their talks he told her of his garden, and of the golden
rose he tried to grow there, and of his failures; and Margaret knew
by his voice and his eyes more than by his words that this was the
wish of his heart. And she smiled and said, "Now I know with what I
must redeem my promise. Yet I think I shall be jealous of your
golden rose." And Hobb, lifting a wave of her glittering hair and
making a rose of it between his fingers, asked, "How can you be
jealous of yourself?" "Yet I think I am," said she again, "for it
was something of myself you promised to give me presently, and I
would rather have something of you." "They are the same thing," said
Hobb, and he twisted up the great rose of her hair till it lay
beside her temple under the ebony fillet. And as his hand touched
the fillet he looked puzzled, and he ran his finger round its
shining blackness and exclaimed, "But this too is hair!" Margaret
laughed her strange laugh and said, "Yes, my own hair, you
discoverer of open secrets!" And putting up her hands she unbound
the fillet, and it fell, a slender coil of black amongst the golden
flood of her head, like a serpent gliding down the sunglade on a
"Why is it like that?" said Hobb simply.
With one of her quick changes Margaret frowned and answered, "Why is
the black yew set with little lamps? Why does a black cloud have an
edge of light? Why does a blackbird have white feathers in his body?
Must things be ALL dark or ALL light?" And she stamped her foot and
turned hastily away, and began to do up her hair with trembling
hands. And Hobb came behind her and kissed the top of her head. She
turned on him half angrily, half smiling, saying, "No! for you do
not like my black lock." And Hobb said very gravely, "I will find
all things beautiful in my beloved, from her black lock to her
blacker temper." Margaret shot a swift look at him and saw that he
was laughing at her with an echo of her own words; and she flung her
arms about him, laughing too. "Oh, Hobb!" said she, "you pluck out
my black temper by the roots!"
So with teasing and talking and quarreling and kissing, and
ever-growing love, July came near its close; and as love discovers or
creates all miracles in what it loves, Hobb for pure joy grew light
of spirit, and laughed and played with his beloved till she knew not
whether she had given her heart to a child or a man; and again when
the happiness that was in his soul shone through his eyes, he was so
transfigured that, gazing on his beauty, she knew not whether she
had received the heart of a man or a god. And the truth was that at
this time Hobb was all three, since love, dear maidens, commands a
region that extends beyond birth and death, and includes all that is
mortal in all that is eternal. And as for Margaret, she was all
things by turns, sometimes as gay as sunbeams so that Hobb could
scarcely follow her dancing spirit, but could only sun himself in
the delight of it; and sometimes she was full of folly and daring,
and made him climb with her the highest trees, and drop great
distances from bough to bough, mocking at all his fears for her
though he had none for himself; and sometimes when he was downcast,
as happened now and then for thinking on his brothers, she forgot
her jealousy in tenderness of his sorrow, and made him lean his head
upon her breast, and talked to him low as a mother to her baby,
words that perhaps were only words of comfort, yet seemed to him
infinite wisdom, as the child believes of its mother's tender
speech. And at all times she was lovelier than his dreams of her.
Not once in this month did Hobb go out of the forest, which was
confined on the north and north-west by big roads running to the
world, and on all other sides by sloped of Downland. But whenever in
their wanderings they arrived at any of these boundaries, Margaret
turned him back and said, "I do not love the open; come away."
But on the last day of the month they came upon a very narrow neck
of the treeless down, a green ride carved between their wood and a
dark plantation that lay beyond, so close as to be almost a part of
Open Winkins, but for that one little channel of space; and Hobb
pointed to it and said, "That's a strange place, let us go there."
"No," said Margaret.
"But is it not our own wood?"
"How can you think so?" she said petulantly. "Do you not see how
black it is in there? How can you want to go there? Come away."
"What is it called?" asked Hobb.
"The Red Copse," said she.
"Why?" asked Hobb.
"I don't know," said she.
"Have you never been there?" asked Hobb.
"No, never. I don't like it. It frightens me." And she clung to him
like a child. "Oh, come away!"
She was trembling so that he turned instantly, and they went back to
the Pilleygreen Lodges, getting wild raspberries for supper on the
way. And after supper they sang songs, one against the other, each
sweeter than the last, and told stories by turns, outdoing each
other in fancy and invention; and at last went happily to bed.
But Hobb could not sleep. For in the night a wind came up and blew
four times round his lodge, shaking it once on every wall. And it
stirred in him the memory of High and Over, and with the memory
misgivings that he could not name. And he rose restlessly from his
couch and went out under the troubled moon, for a windy rack of
clouds was blowing over the sky. But through it she often poured her
amber light, and by it Hobb saw that Margaret's door was blowing on
its hinges. He called her softly, but he got no answer; and then he
called more loudly, but still she did not answer.
"She cannot be sleeping through this," said Hobb to himself; and
with an uneasy heart he stood beside the door and looked into the
lodge. And she was not there, and the couch had not been slept on.
But on it lay her empty dress, its gold and black all tumbled in a
heap, and on top of it was an embroidered smock. And something in
the smock attracted him, so that he went quickly forward to examine
it; and he saw that it was Heriot's shirt, that had been cut and
changed and worked all over with peacocks' feathers. And he stood
staring at it, astounded and aghast. Recovering himself, he turned
to leave the lodge, but stumbled on the open coffer, hanging out of
which was a second smock; and this one had two lions worked on the
back and front, and one was red and the other white, and the smock
had been Hugh's shirt. Then Hobb fell on the coffer and searched its
contents till he had found Lionel's little shirt fashioned into a
linen vest, with a tiny border of fantastic animals dancing round
it, pink pigs, and black cocks, and white donkeys, and chestnut
horses. And last of all he found the shirt of Ambrose, tattered and
frayed, and every tatter was worked at the edge with a different
hue, and here and there small mocking patches of color had been
stitched above the holes.
And at each discovery the light in Hobb's eyes grew calmer, and the
beat of his heart more steady. And he walked out of the Pilleygreen
Lodge and as straight as his feet would carry him across Open
Winkins and the green ride, and into the Red Copse. As he went he
shut down the dread in his heart of what he should find there,
"For," said Hobb to himself, "I shall need more courage now than I
have ever had." It was black in the Red Copse, with a blackness
blacker than night, and the wild races of moonlight that splashed
the floors of Open Winkins were here unseen. But a line of ruddy
fireflies made a track on the blackness, and Hobb, going as softly
as he might, followed in their wake. Just before the middle of the
Copse they stopped and flew away, and one by one, as each reached
the point deserted by its leader, darted back as though unable to
penetrate with its tiny fire the fearful shadows that lay just
ahead. But Hobb went where the fireflies could not go. And he found
a dark silent hollow in the wood, where neither moon nor sun could
ever come; and at the bottom of it a long straggling pool, with a
surface as black as ebony, and mud and slime below. Here toads and
bats and owls and nightjars had come to drink, with rats and stoats
who left their footprints in the mud. And on the ground and bushes
Hobb saw slugs and snails, woodlice, beetles and spiders, and
creeping things without number. The gloom of the place was awful,
and turned the rank foliage of trees and shrubs black in perpetual
twilight. But what Hobb saw he saw by a light that had no place in
heaven. For kneeling beside the pool was his love Margaret, her
naked body crouched and bowed among the creatures of the mud; and
her two waves of gold were flung behind her like a smooth mantle,
but the one black lock was drawn forward over her head, and she was
dipping and dipping it into the dank waters. And every time she drew
the dripping lock from its stagnant bath, it glimmered with an
unearthly phosphorescence, that shed a ghostly light upon the
hollow, and all that it contained. And at each dipping the lock of
hair came out blacker than before.
At last she was done, and she slowly squeezed the water from her
unnatural tress, and laid it back in its place among the gold. And
then she stretched her arms and sighed so heavily that the crawling
creatures by the pool were startled. But less started than she, when
lifting her head she saw the eyes of Hobb looking down on her. And
such terror came into her own eyes that the look rang on his heart
as though it had been a cry. Yet not a sound issued between her
lips. And he said to himself, "Now I need more wisdom than I have
ever had." And he continued to look steadily at her with eyes that
she could not read. And presently he spoke.
"We have some promises to redeem to-night," he said, "and we will
redeem them now. You promised me my perfect golden rose, and this
night I am going out of Open Winkins and back to my own Burgh. And
to-morrow, since I now know something of your power of gifts, I
shall find the rose upon my hill, and in exchange for it I will keep
my word and give you back yourself. But there is something more than
this." And he went a little apart, and soon came back to her with
his jerkin undone and his shirt in his hand. "You have my brothers'
shirts and here is mine," he said. "To-night when I am gone you
shall return to Open Winkins, and spend the hours in taking out the
work you have put into their shirts. And in the morning when I meet
them at the Burgh I shall know if you have done this. But in
exchange for theirs I give you mine to do with as you will. And the
only other thing I ask of you is this; that when you have taken out
the work in their shirts, you will spend the day in making a white
garment for the lady who will one day be my wife. And whatever
other embroidery you put upon it, let it bear on the left breast a
golden rose. And to-morrow night, if all is well at the Burgh,
I will come here for the last time and fetch it from you."
Then Hobb laid his shirt beside her on the ground, and turned and
went away. And she had not even tried to speak to him.
When Hobb got out of the Red Copse he presently found a road and
followed it, hoping for the best. After awhile he saw a tramp asleep
in a ditch, and woke him and asked him the way to the Burgh of the
Five Lords. But the tramp had never heard of it. So then Hobb asked
the way to Firle, and the tramp said "That's another matter," for
Sussex tramps know all the beacons of the Downs, and he told him to
go east. Which Hobb did, walking without rest through the night and
dawn and day, here and there getting a lift that helped him forward.
And in his heart he carried hope like a lovely flower, but under it
a quick pain like a reptile's sting that felt to him like death. And
he would not give way to the pain, but went as fast and as steadily
as he could; and at last, with strained eyes and aching feet, and
limbs he could scarcely drag for weariness, and the dust of many
miles upon his shoes and clothes, he came to his own bare country
and the Burgh. He rested heavily on the gate, and the first thing he
saw was Lionel on the steps, laughing and playing with a litter of
young puppies. And the next was Hugh climbing the castle wall to get
an arrow that had lodged in a high chink. And out of a window leaned
Heriot in all his young beauty, picking sweet clusters of the
seven-sisters roses that climbed to his room. And in the doorway sat
Ambrose, with a book on his knee, but his eyes fixed on the gate.
And when he saw Hobb standing there he came quickly down the steps,
calling to the others, "Lionel! Hugh! Heriot! our brother has come
home." And Lionel rushed through the puppies, and Hugh dropped
bodily from the wall, and Heriot leaped through the window. And the
four boys clung to Hobb and kissed him and wrung his hands, and
seemed as they would fight for very possession of him. And Hobb,
with his arms about the younger boys, and Heriot's hand in his,
leaned his forehead on Ambrose's cheek, and Ambrose felt his face
grow wet with Hobb's tears. Then Ambrose looked at him with
apprehension, and said in a low voice, "Hobb, what have you lost?"
And Hobb understood him. And he answered in a voice as low, "My
heart. But I have found my four brothers." They took him in and
prepared a bath and fresh clothes for him, and a meal was ready when
he was refreshed. He came among them steady and calm again, and the
three youngest had nothing but rejoicing for him. And he saw that
all memory of what had happened had been washed from them. But with
Ambrose it was different, for he who had had his very mind effaced,
in recovering his mind remembered all. And after the meal he took
Hobb aside and said, "Tell me what has happened to you."
Then Hobb said, "Some things happen which are between two people
only, and they can never be told. And what has passed in this last
month, dear Ambrose, is only for her knowledge and mine. But as to
what is going to happen, I do not yet know."
After a moment's silence Ambrose said, "Tell me this at least. Has
she given you a gift?"
"She has given me you again," said Hobb.
"That is different," said Ambrose. "She has given us ourselves
again, and our power to pursue the destiny of our natures. But no
man is another man's destiny. And it was our error to barter our own
powers to another in exchange for the small goals our natures
desired. And so we lost a treasure for a trifle. For every man's
power is greater than the thing he achieves by it. But what has she
given you in exchange for what she has taken from you?" And as he
spoke he looked into Hobb's gentle eyes, and thought that if he had
lost his heart it was a loss that had somehow multiplied his
possession of it. "What has she given you?" he said again.
"I shall not know," said Hobb, "until I have been to my garden. And
I must go alone. And afterwards, Ambrose, I must ride away for
another night and day, but then I will return to the Burgh for
So he got his horse, and went to the Gardener's Hill, and his garden
was blazing with flowers like a joyous welcome. But when he
approached the bush on which his heart was set, he saw a great gold
bloom upon it that startled him with its beauty; until coming closer
he perceived that all the petals were rotten at the heart, and
coiled in the center was a small black snake.
He plucked the rose from its stem, and as he looked at it his face
grew bright, and he suddenly laughed aloud for joy; and he ran out
of the garden and got on his horse, and rode with all his speed to
Open Winkins. When he got there the moon had risen over the
And Margaret sat at the door of her lodge in the moonlight, putting
the last stitches into her work.
But when she saw him coming she broke her thread, and rose and
averted her head. Then Hobb dismounted and came and stood beside
her, and saw that in some way she was changed from the woman he
knew. Margaret, still not turning to him, muttered, "Do not look at
me, please. For I am ugly and unhappy and afraid and nearly mad. And
here are your brothers' shirts." She gave him the four shirts,
restored to themselves. He took them silently. "And here," continued
Margaret, is her wedding-smock."
And Hobb took it from her, and saw that out of his own shirt, washed
and bleached, she had made a lovely garment. And round it, from the
hem upward, ran a climbing briar of exquisite delicacy, and with a
beautiful design of spines and leaves; but the only flower upon it
was a golden rose, worked on the heart of the smock in her own gold
hair. And Hobb took it from her and again said nothing.
Then Margaret with a great cry, as though her heart were breaking,
gasped, "Go! go quickly! I have done what you wanted. Go!"
"Yes, dear," said Hobb, "but you must come with me."
She turned then, whispering, "How can I go with you? What do you
mean?" And she looked in his eyes and saw in them such infinite
compassion and tenderness that she was overwhelmed, and swayed where
she stood. And then his arms, which she had never expected to feel
again, closed round her body, and she lay helplessly against him,
and heard him say, "Love Margaret, you are my only love, and you
worked the wedding-smock for yourself. Oh, Margaret, did you think I
had another love?"
She looked at him blankly as though she could not understand, and
her face was full of wonder and joy and fright. And she hung away
from him sobbing, "No, no, no! I cannot. I must not. I am not good
"Which of us is good enough?" said Hobb. "So then we must all come
to love for help."
And she cried again in an agony, "No, no, no! There is evil in me.
And I lived alone and had nothing, nothing that ever lasted, for I
was born on High and Over in the crossways of the winds, and they
were the godfathers of my birth. And all my life they have blown
things to and from me. And I tried to keep what they blew me; and I
gave their hearts' desire to all comers, and took in exchange the
best they could give me; for I thought that if it was fair for them
to take, it was fair for me to take too. But nothing that I took
mattered longer than a week or a day or an hour, neither laughter
nor courage nor beauty nor wisdom--all, all were unstable till the
winds blew me you. And as I looked at you lying there unconscious,
something, I knew not what, seemed different from anything I had
ever known, but when you opened your eyes I knew what it was, and my
heart seemed to fly from my body. And I longed, as I had never
longed with the others, to give you your soul's desire, and I have
tried and tried, and I could not. I could not give you anything at
all, but every hour of the day and night I seemed to be taking from
you. And yet what you had to give me was never exhausted. And the
evil in me often fought against you, when I dreaded your knowing the
truth about me, and would have lied my soul away to keep you from
knowing it; and when I was jealous of your love for your brothers.
So again and again I failed, when I should have thought of nothing
but that you loved me as I loved you. For did I not know of my own
love that it could never give you cause to be jealous, nor would
ever shrink from any truth it might know of you?--but now--but now!--
oh, my heart, had I known, when you spoke last night of your bride,
that I was she! I will never be she! I was not good enough. I fought
myself in vain." And she drooped in his arms, nearly fainting.
"Love Margaret!" said Hobb, and the tears ran down his face, "I will
fight for you, yes, and you will fight for me. And if you have
sacrificed joy and courage and beauty and wisdom for my sake, I will
give them all to you again; and yet you must also give them to me,
for they are things in which without you I am wanting. But together
we can make them. And when I went to my garden this morning, I
thanked God that my rose was not perfect, and that you had not taken
my heart, as you had taken joy and courage and beauty and wisdom, as
a penalty for a gift. Their desires you could give them, and take
their best in payment, but mine you could not give me in the same
way. For in love there are no penalties and no payments, and what is
given is indistinguishable from what is received." And he bent his
head and kissed her long and deeply, and in that kiss neither knew
themselves, or even each other, but something beyond all
consciousness that was both of them.
Presently Hobb said, "Now let us go away from Open Winkins together,
and I will take you to the Burgh. But you must go as my bride."
And Margaret, pale as death from that long kiss, withdrew herself
very slowly from his arms. And her dark eyes looked strange in the
moonlight as he had never seen them, and more beautiful, with a
beauty beyond beauty; and deep joy too was in them, and an infinite
wisdom, and a strength of courage, that seemed more than courage,
wisdom and joy, for they had come from the very fountain of all
these things. And very slowly, with that unfading look, she took off
her black gown and put on the white bridal-smock she had made; and
as soon as she had put it on she fell dead at his feet.
("I think," said Martin Pippin, "that you have now had plenty of
time, Mistress Jessica, to ponder my riddle."
"Your riddle?" exclaimed Jessica. "But--good heavens! bother your
riddle! get on with the story."
"How can I get on with it?" said Martin. "It's got there."
Joscelyn: No, no, no! oh, it's impossible! oh, I can't bear it! oh,
how angry I am with you!
Martin: Dear Mistress Joscelyn, why are you so agitated?
Joscelyn: I? I am not at all agitated. I am quite collected. I only
wish you were as collected, for I think you must be out of your
wits. How DARE you leave this story where it is? How dare you!
Martin: Dear, dear Mistress Joscelyn, what more is there to be told?
Joscelyn: I do not care what more is to be told. Only some of it
must be re-told. You must bring that girl instantly to life!
Joyce: Of course you must! And explain why she died, though she
Jennifer: No, indeed! and if it had to do with her black hair, you
must pluck it out by the roots.
Jessica: Yes, indeed! and you must do something about the horrible
pool in the Red Copse, for perhaps that is what killed her.
Jane: Oh, it is too dreadful not to have a story with a wedding in
And little Joan leaned out of her branch and took Martin's hand in
hers, and looked at him pleadingly, and said nothing.
"Will women NEVER let a man make a thing in his own way?" said
Martin. "Will they ALWAYS be adding and changing this detail and
that? For what a detail is death once lovers have kissed. However--!")
Not less than yourselves, my silly dears, was Hobb overwhelmed by
that down-sinking of his love Margaret. And he fell on his knees
beside her, and took her in his arms, and put his hand over the rose
on her heart, that had ceased to beat. Suddenly it seemed to him
that his hand had been stung, and he drew it away quickly, his eyes
on the golden rose. And where she had left it just incomplete at his
coming, he saw a jet-black speck. A light broke over him swiftly,
and one by one he broke the strands at the rose's heart, and under
it revealed a small black snake; and as the rose had been done from
her own gold locks, so the snake had been done from the one black
lock in the gold. Then at last Hobb understood why she had cried she
was not good enough to be his bride, for she had fought in vain her
last dark impulse to prepare death for the woman who should wear the
bridal-smock. And he understood too the meaning of her last
wonderful look, as she took the death upon herself. And he loved
her, both for her fault and her redemption of it, more than he had
ever thought that he could love her; for he had believed that in
their kiss love had reached its uttermost. But love has no
uttermost, as the stars have no number and the sea no rest.
Now at first Hobb thought to pluck the serpent from her breast, but
then he said, "Of what use to destroy the children of evil? It is
evil itself we must destroy at the roots." And very carefully he
undid her beautiful hair, and laid its two gold waves on either
side; but the slim black tress he gathered up in his hand until he
held every hair of it, and one by one he plucked them from her head.
And every time he plucked a hair the pain that had been under his
heart stabbed him with a sting that seemed like death, and with each
sting the mortal agony grew more acute, till it was as though the
powers of evil were spitting burning venom on that steadfast heart,
to wither it before it could frustrate them. But he did not falter
once; and as he plucked the last hair out, Margaret opened her eyes.
Then all pain leapt like a winged snake from his heart, and he
forgot everything but the joy and wonder in her eyes as she lay
looking up at him, and said, "What has happened to me? and what have
you done?" And she saw the tress in his hand and understood, and she
kissed the hand that had plucked the evil from her. Then, her smoky
eyes shining with tears, but a smile on her pale lips, she said,
"Come, and we will drown that hair for ever." So hand-in-hand they
went across Open Winkins and over the way that led to the Red Copse.
And as they pushed and scrambled through the bushes, what do you
think they saw? First a shimmering light round the edge of the pool,
and then a sheet of moon-daisies, the largest, whitest, purest
blooms that ever were. And they stood there on their tall straight
stems of tender green in hundreds and hundreds, guarding and
sanctifying the place. It was like a dark cathedral with white
lilies on the high altar. And they saw a cock blackbird wetting his
whistle at the pool, and heard two others and a green woodpecker
chuckling in the trees close by. And they had no eyes for slimy
goblin things, even if there were any. And I don't believe there
They bound the black tress about a stone, and it sank among the
reflections of the daisies in the water, there to be purified for
ever. And the next day he put her behind him on his horse, and they
rode to the garden on the eastern hills, and found on his bush a
single perfect rose. And as she had given it to him, Hobb
straightway plucked and gave it to her. For that is the only way to
possess a gift.
And then they went together to the Burgh, and very soon after there
was a wedding.
I am now all impatience, Mistress Jessica, to hear you solve my
Like contented mice, the milkmaids began once more to nibble at
their half-finished apples, and simultaneously nibbled at the just-finished story.
Jessica: Do, pray, Jane, let us hear what conclusions you draw from
Jane: I confess, Jessica, I am all at sea. The good and the evil
were so confused in this tale that even now I can scarcely
distinguish between black and gold. For had Margaret not done ill,
who would have discovered how well Hobb could do? Yet who would wish
her, or any woman, to do ill? even for the proof of his, or any
Martin: True, Mistress Jane. Yet women are so strangely constructed
that they have in them darkness as well as light, though it be but a
little curtain hung across the sun. And love is the hand that takes
the curtain down, a stronger hand than fear, which hung it up. For
all the ill that is in us comes from fear, and all the good from
love. And where there is fear to combat, love is life's warrior; but
where there is no fear he is life's priest. And his prayer is even
stronger than his sword. But men, always less aware of prayers than
of blows, recognize him chiefly when he is in arms, and so are
deluded into thinking that love depends on fear to prove his force.
But this is a fallacy; love's force is independent. For how can what
is immortal depend on what is mortal? Yet human beings must, by the
very fact of being alive at all, partake of both qualities. And
strongly opposed as we shall find the complexing elements of light
and darkness in a woman, still more strongly opposed shall we
discover them in a man. As I presume I have no need to tell you.
Joscelyn: You presume too much. The elements that go to make a man
are not to our taste.
Martin: My story I hope was so.
Joscelyn: To some extent. And this pool in the Red Copse, is it hard
Martin: Neither harder nor easier than all fairies' secrets. And at
certain times in summer, when the wood is altogether lovely with
centaury and purple loosestrife, you can hardly miss the pool for
the fairies that flock there.
Joyce: What dresses do they wear?
Martin: The most beautiful in the world. The dresses of White
Admirals and Red, and Silver-Washed Fritillaries and Pearl-Bordered
Fritillaries, and Large Whites and Small Whites and Marbled Whites
and Green-Veined Whites, and Ringlets, and Azure Blues, and Painted
Ladies, and Meadow Browns. And they go there for a Feast Day in
honor of some Saint of the Fairies' Church. Which Hobb and Margaret
also attended once yearly on each first of August, bringing a golden
rose to lay upon the altars of the pool. And the year in which they
brought it no more, two Sulphurs, with dresses like sunlight on a
charlock-field, came with the rest to the moon-daisies' Feast;
because not once in all their years of marriage had the perfect rose
Jessica: It relieves me to hear that. For I had dreaded lest their
rose was blighted for ever.
Jane: And I too, Jessica. Especially when she died at his feet.
Joan: And yet, Jane, she did not really die, and somehow I was sure
she would live.
Joyce: Yes, I was confident that Hobb would be as happy as he
deserved to be.
Jennifer: I do not know why, but even at the worst I could not
imagine a love-story ending in tears.
Martin: Neither could I. Since love's spear is for woe and his
shield for joy. Why, I know of but one thing that could have lost
him that battle.
Three of the Milkmaids: What thing?
Martin: Had the elements that go to make a man not been to
Conversation ceased in the Apple-Orchard.
Joscelyn: Her taste would have been the more commendable, singer.
And your tale might have been the better worth listening to. But
since tales have nothing in common with truth, it's a matter of
indifference to me whether Hobb's rose suffered perpetual blight or
Jane: And to me.
Martin: Then let the tale wilt, since indifference is a blight no
story can suffer and live. And see! overhead the moon hangs
undecided under a cloud, one half of her lovely body unveiled, the
other half draped in a ghostly garment lit from within by the
beauties she still keeps concealed; like a maid half-ready for her
pillow, turned motionless on the brink of her couch by the oncoming
dreams to which she so soon will wholly yield herself. Let us not
linger, for her chamber is sacred, and we too have dreams that await
Like a flock of clouds at sundown, the milkmaids made a golden group
upon the grass, and soon, by their breathing, had sunk into their
slumbers. All but Jessica, who instead of following their example,
pushed the ground with her foot to keep herself in motion; and as
she swung she bit a strand of her hair and knitted her brows. And
Martin amused himself watching her. And presently as she swung she
plucked a leaf from the apple-tree and looked at it, and let it go.
And then she snapped off a twig, and flung it after the leaf. And
next she caught at an apple, and tossed it after the twig.
"Well?" said Martin Pippin.
"Don't be in such a hurry," said Jessica. She got off the swing and
walked round the tree, touching it here and there. And all of a
sudden she threw an arm up into the branches and leaned the whole
weight of her body against the trunk, and began to whistle.
"Give it up?" said Martin Pippin.
"Stupid!" said Jessica. "I've guessed it."
"Impossible!" said Martin. "Nobody ever guesses riddles. Riddles
were only invented to be given up. Because the pleasure of not being
guessed is so much greater than the pleasure of having guessed. Do
give it up and let me tell you the answer. Even if you know the
answer, please, please give it up, for I am dying to tell it you."
"I shall never have saved a young man's life easier," said Jessica,
"and as you saved mine before the story, I suppose I ought to save
yours after it. How often, by the way, have you saved a lady's
"As often as she thought herself in danger of losing it," said
Martin. "It happens every other minute with ladies, who are always
dying to have, or to do, or to know--this thing or that."
"I hope," said Jessica, "I shall not die before I know everything
there is to know."
"What a small wish," said Martin.
"Have you a bigger one?"
"Yes," said he; "to know everything, there is not to know."
Jessica: Oh, but those are the only things I do know.
Martin: It is a knowledge common to women.
Jessica: How do YOU know?
Martin: I'm sure I don't know.
Jessica: I don't think, Master Pippin, that you know a great deal
And she put out her tongue at him.
Martin: (Take care!) I know nothing at all about women.
Jessica: (Why?) Yet you pretend to tell love-stories.
Martin: (Because if you do that I can't answer for the
consequences.) It is only by women's help that I tell them at all.
Jessica: (I'm not afraid of consequences. I'm not afraid of
anything.) Who helped you tell this one?
Martin: (Your courage will have to be tested.) You did.
Jessica: Did I? How?
Martin: Because what you love in an apple-tree is not the leaf or
the flower or the bough or the fruit--it is the apple-tree. Which is
all of the things and everything besides; for it is the roots and
the rind and the sap, it is motion and rest and color and shape and
scent, and the shadows on the earth and the lights in the air--and
still I have not said what the tree is that you love, for thought I
should recapitulate it through the four seasons I should only be
telling you those parts, none of which is what you love in an
apple-tree. For no one can love the part more than the whole till love can
be measured in pint-pots. And who can measure fountains? That's the
answer, Mistress Jessica. I knew you'd have to give it up. (Take
care, child, take care!)
Jessica: (I won't take care!). I knew the answer all the time.
Martin: Then you know what your apple-tree has to do with my story.
Jessica: Yes, I suppose so.
Martin: Please tell me.
Martin: But I give it up.
Martin: That's not fair. People who give it up must always be told,
in triumph if not in pity.
Jessica: I sha'n't tell.
Martin: You don't know.
Jessica: I'll box your ears.
Martin: If you do--!
Jessica: Quarreling's silly.
Martin: Who began it?
Jessica: You did. Men always do.
Martin: Always. What was the beginning of your quarrel with men?
Jessica: They say girls can't throw straight.
Martin: Silly asses! I'd like to see them throw as straight as
girls. Did you ever watch them at it? Men can throw straight in one
direction only--but watch a girl! she'll throw straight all round
the compass. Why, a man will throw straight at the moon and miss it
by the eighth of an inch; but a girl will throw at the sun and hit
the moon as straight as a die. I never saw a girl throw yet without
straightway finding some mark or other.
Jessica: Yes, but you can't convince a man till he's hit.
Martin: Hit him then.
Jessica: It didn't convince him. He said I'd missed. And he said he
had hi--he wasn't convinced.
Martin: Did he really say that? These men can no more talk straight
than throw straight. Can you talk straight, Jessica?
Jessica: Yes, Martin.
Martin: Then tell me what your apple-tree has to do with my story.
Jessica: Bother. All right. Because wisdom and beauty and courage
and laughter can all be measured in pint-pots. And any or all of
these things can be dipped out of a fountain. You thought I didn't
know, but I do know.
Martin: (Take care!) Where did you get all this knowledge?
Jessica: And that was why Margaret could take what she took from
Lionel and Hugh and Heriot and Ambrose, because it was something
measurable. Yes, because even a gay spirit can be sad at times, and
a strong nerve weak, and a beautiful face ugly, and a clever brain
dull. But when it came to taking what Hobb had, she could take and
take without exhausting it, and give and give and always have
something left to give, because that wasn't measurable. And the tree
is the tree, and love is never anything else but love.
Martin: Oh, Jessica! who has been your schoolmaster?
Jessica: And so when she threw away her four pints what did it
matter, any more than when the tree loses its leaves, or its
flowers, or snaps a twig, or drops its apples? For though nobody
else thought them lovely or clever or witty or splendid, she and
Hobb were so to each other for ever and ever; because--
Jessica: It doesn't matter. I've told you enough, and you thought I
couldn't tell you anything, and I simply hated saying it, but you
thought I couldn't throw straight and I can, and your riddle was as
simple as pie.
Martin: (Look out, I tell you!) You have thrown as straight as a
die. And now I will ask you a straight question. Will you give me
your key to Gillian's prison?
Martin: Because you dreaded lest Hobb's rose was blighted for ever?
Jessica: No. Because it's a shame she should be there at all.
And she gave him the key.
Martin: You honest dear.
Jessica: You thought I was going to beg the question--didn't you,
Martin: Put in your tongue, or--
Jessica: Or what?
Martin: You know what.
Jessica: I don't know what.
Martin: Then you must take the consequences.
And she took the consequences on both cheeks.
Jessica: Oh! Oh, if I had guessed you meant that, do you suppose for
a moment that I would have--?
Martin: You dishonest dear.
Jessica: I don't know what you mean.
Martin: How crooked girls throw!
She boxed his ears heartily and ran to her comrades. When she was
perfectly safe she turned round and put out her tongue at him.
Then they both lay down and went to sleep.
Martin was wakened by water squeezed on his eyelids. He looked up
and saw Joscelyn wringing out her little handkerchief in the
"Let us have no nonsense this morning," said she.
"I like that!" mumbled Martin. "What's this but nonsense?" He sat
up, drying his face on his sleeve. "What a silly trick," he said.
"Rubbish," said Joscelyn. "Our master is due, and yesterday you
overslept yourself and were troublesome. Go to your tree this
"I shall go when I choose," said Martin.
"Maids! maids! maids!"
"This instant!" said Joscelyn, and dipped her handkerchief in the
Martin crawled into the tree.
"Is a dog got into the orchard, maids?" said Old Gillman, looking
through the hedge.
"What an idea, master," said Joscelyn.
"I thought I seed one wagging his tail in the grass."
The girls burst out laughing; they laughed till the apples shook,
and Old Gillman laughed too, because laughter is catching. And then
he stopped laughing and said, "Is an echo got into the orchard?"
And the startled girls laughed louder than ever, and they grew red
in the face, and tears stood in their eyes, and Joscelyn had to go
and lean against the russet tree, where she stood frowning like a
" Tis well to be laughing," said Old Gillman, "but have ye heard my
daughter laughing yet?"
"No, master," said Jessica, "but I shouldn't wonder if it happened
"Any day may be no day," groaned Gillman, "and though it were some
day, as like as not I'd not be here to see the day. For I'm drinking
myself into my grave, as Parson warned me yesternight, coming for my
receipt for mulled beer. Gillian!" he implored, "when will ye think
better of it, and save an old man's life?"
But for all the notice she took of him, he might have been the dog
barking in his kennel.
"Bitter bread for me, maids, and sweet bread for you," said the
farmer, passing the loaves through the gap. " Tis plain fare for all
these days. May the morrow bring cake."
"Oh, master, please!" called Jessica. "I would like to know how
Clover, the Aberdeen, gets on without me."
"Gets on as best she can with Oliver," said Gillman, "though that
fretty at times tis as well for him she's polled. Yet all he says
is Patience.' But I say, will patience keep us all from rack and
And he went away shaking his head.
"Why did you laugh?" stormed Joscelyn, as soon as he was out of
"How could I help it?" pleaded Martin. "When the old man laughed
because you laughed, and you laughed for another reason--hadn't I a
third reason to laugh? But how you glared at me! I am sorry I
laughed. Let us have breakfast."
"You think of nothing but mealtimes," said Joscelyn crossly; and she
carried Gillian's bread to the Well-House, where she discovered only
the little round top of yesterday's loaf. For every crumb of the
bigger half had been eaten. So Joscelyn came away all smiles,
tossing the ball of bread in the air, and saying as she caught it,
"I do believe Gillian is forgetting her sorrow."
"I am certain of it," agreed Martin, clapping his hands. And she
flung the top of the loaf to his right, and he made a great leap to
the left and caught it. And then he threw it to Jessica, who tossed
it to Joan, who sent it to Joyce, who whirled it to Jennifer, who
spun it to Jane, who missed it. And all the girls ran to pick it up
first, but Martin with a dexterous kick landed it in the duckpond,
where the drake got it. And he and the ducks squabbled over it
during the next hour, while Martin and the milkmaids breakfasted on
bread and apples with no squabbling and great good spirits.
And after breakfast Martin lay on his back, chewing a grassblade and
counting the florets on another, whispering to himself as he plucked
them one by one. And the girls watched him. He did it several times
with several blades of grass, and always looked disappointed at the
"Won't it come right?" asked little Joan.
"Won't what come right?" said Martin.
"Oh, I know what you're doing," said little Joan; and she too
plucked a blade and began to count--
"I'm sure I wasn't," said Martin. "Tailor indeed!"
"Well, something like that," said Joan.
"Nothing at all like that. Oh, Mistress Joan! a tailor. Why, even if
I were a maid like yourselves, do you think I'd give fate the chance
to set me on my husband's cross-knees for the rest of my life?"
"What would you do then if you were a maid?" asked Joyce.
"If I were a town-maid," said Martin, "I should choose the most
delightful husbands in the city streets." And plucking a fresh blade
he counted aloud,
"There, Mistress Joyce," said Martin Pippin, "I should marry a Sweep
and sit in the tall chimneys and see stars by daylight."
"Oh, let me try!" cried Joyce.
And--"Let me!" cried five other voices at once.
So he chose each girl a blade, and she counted her fate on it, with
Martin to prompt her. And Jessica got the Chimney-sweep, and vowed
she saw Orion's belt round the sun, and Jennifer got the Lamplighter
and looked sorrowful, for she too wished to see stars in the
morning; but Martin consoled her by saying that she would make the
dark to shine, and set whispering lights in the fog, when men had
none other to see by. And Joyce got the Muffin-man, and Martin told
her that wherever she went men, women, and children would run to
their snowy doorsteps, for she would be as welcome as swallows in
spring. And Jane got the Bell-Ringer, and Martin said an angel must
have blessed her birth, since she was to live and die with the peals
of heaven in her ears. And Joscelyn got the Ballad-Singer.
"What about Ballad-Singers, Master Pippin?" asked Joscelyn.
"Nothing at all about Ballad-Singers," said Martin. "They're a poor
lot. I'm sorry for you."
And Joscelyn threw her stripped blade away saying, "It's only a
But little Joan got the King. And she looked at Martin, and he
smiled at her, and had no need to say anything, because a king is a
king. And suddenly every girl must needs grow out of sorts with her
fate, and find other blades to count, until each one had achieved a
king to her satisfaction. All but Joscelyn, who
said she didn't care.
"You are quite right," said Martin, "because none of this applies to
any of you. These are town-fortunes, and you are country-maids."
And he plucked a new blade, reciting,
"How dull!" said Jessica. "These are men for every day."
"So is a husband," said Martin. "And to your town-girls, who no
longer see romance in a Chimneysweep, your Poacher's a Pirate and
your Shepherd a Poet. Could you not find it in your heart, Mistress
Jessica, to put up with a Thatcher?"
"That's enough of husbands," said Jessica.
"Then what of houses?" said Martin. "Where shall we live when we're
'Under a thatch,
In a ship's hatch,
An inn, a castle,
A brown paper parcel'--
"Stuff and nonsense!" said Joscelyn.
"For the sake of the rime," begged Martin. But the girls were not
interested in houses. Yet the rest of the morning they went
searching the orchard for the grass of fortune, and not telling. But
once Martin, coming behind Jessica, distinctly heard her murmur
"Thatcher!" and smile. And at another time he saw Joyce deliberately
count her blade before beginning, and nip off a floret, and then
begin; and the end was "Plowman." And presently little Joan came and
knelt beside him where he sat counting on his own behalf, and said
"Yes, dear?" said Martin absentmindedly.
"Oh. Martin, is it very wicked to poach?"
"The best men all do it," said Martin.
"Oh. Please, what are you counting?"
"You swear you won't tell?" said Martin, with a side-glance at her.
She shook her head, and he pulled at his grass whispering--
"And the last one?" said little Joan, with a rosy face; for he had
paused at the eighth.
"Sh!" said Martin, and stuck his blade behind his ear and called
So they came to dinner.
"Have you not found," said Martin, "that after thinking all the
morning it is necessary to jump all the afternoon?" And he got the
ropes of the swing and began to skip with great clumsiness, always
failing before ten, and catching the cord round his ankles. At which
the girls plied him with derision, and said they would show him how.
And Jane showed him how to skip forwards, and Jessica how to skip
backwards, and Jennifer how to skip with both feet and stay in one
spot, and Joyce how to skip on either foot, on a run. And Joscelyn
showed him how to skip with the rope crossed and uncrossed by turns.
But little Joan showed him how to skip so high and so lightly that
she could whirl the rope twice under her feet before they came down
to earth like birds. And then the girls took the ropes by turns,
ringing the changes on all these ways of skipping; or two of them
would turn a rope for the others, while they skipped the games of
their grandmothers: "Cross the Bible," "All in together," "Lady,
lady, drop your purse!" and "Cinderella lost her shoe;" or they
turned two ropes at once for the Double Dutch; and Martin took his
run with the rest. And at first he did very badly, but as the day
wore on improved, until by evening he was whirling the rope three
times under his feet that glanced against each other in mid-air like
the knife and the steel. And the girls clapped their hands because
they couldn't help it, and Joan said breathlessly:
"How quick you are! it took me ten days to do that."
And Martin answered breathlessly, "How quick you were! it took me
"Are you ever honest about anything, Master Pippin?" said Joscelyn
"Three times a day," said Martin, "I am honestly hungry."
So they had supper.
Supper done, they clustered as usual about the story-telling tree,
and Martin looked inquiringly from Jane to Joscelyn and from
Joscelyn to Jane. And Joscelyn's expression was one of uncontrolled
indifference, and Jane's expression was one of bridled excitement.
So Martin ignored Joscelyn and asked Jane what she was thinking
"A great number of things, Master Pippin," said she. "There is
always so much to think about."
"Is there?" said Martin.
"Oh, surely you know there is. How could you tell stories else?"
"I never think when I tell stories," said Martin. "I give them a
push and let them swing."
"Oh but," said Jane, "it is very dangerous to speak without
thinking. One might say anything."
"One does," agreed Martin, "and then anything happens. But people
who think before speaking often end by saying nothing. And so
"Perhaps it's as well," said Joyce slyly.
"Yet the world must go round, Mistress Joyce. And swings were made
to swing. Do you think, Mistress Jane, if you sat in the swing I
should think twice, or even once, before giving it a push?"
Jane considered this, and then said gravely, "I think, Master
Pippin, you would have to think at least once before pushing the
swing to-night; because it isn't there."
"What a wise little milkmaid you are," said Martin, looking about
for the skipping-ropes.
"Yes," said Jessica, "Jane is wiser than any of us. She is extremely
wise. I wonder you hadn't noticed it."
"Oh, but I had," said Martin earnestly, fixing the swinging ropes to
their places. "There, Mistress Jane, let me help you in, and I will
give you a push."
He offered her his hand respectfully, and Jane took it saying, "I
don't like swinging very high."
"I will think before I push," said Martin. And when she was settled,
with her skirts in order and her little feet tucked back, he rocked
the swing so gently that not an apple fell nor a milkmaid slipped,
clambering to her place. And Martin leaned back in his and shut his
"We are waiting," observed Joscelyn overhead.
"So am I," sighed Martin.
"For a push."
"But you're not swinging."
"Neither's my story. And it will take seven pair of arms to set it
going." And he fixed his eyes on Gillian in her sorrow, but she did
not lift her face.
"Here's six to start the motion of themselves," said Joscelyn, "and
it only remains to you to attract the seventh willy-nilly."
"It were easier," said Martin, "to unlock Saint Peter's Gates with
"I was not talking of impossibilities, Master Pippin," said
"Why, neither was I," said Martin; "for did you never hear that
cowslips, among all the golden flowers of spring, are the Keys of
And sending a little chime from his lute across the Well-House he
She lost the keys of heaven
Walking in a shadow,
Sighing for her lad O
She lost her keys of heaven.
She saw the boys and girls who flocked
Beyond the gates all barred and locked--
And oh! sighed she, the locks are seven
Betwixt me and my lad O,
And I have lost my keys of heaven
Walking in a shadow.
She found the keys of heaven
All in a May meadow,
Singing for her lad O
She found her keys of heaven.
She found them made of cowslip gold
And oh! sang she, ere fall of even
Shall I not be wed O?
For I have found my keys of heaven
All in a May meadow.
By the end of the song Gillian was kneeling upright among the
mallows, and with her hands clasped under her chin was gazing across
"Well, well!" exclaimed Joscelyn, "cowslips may, or may not, have
the power to unlock the heavenly gates. But there's no denying that
a very silly song has unlocked our Mistress's lethargy. So I advise
you to seize the occasion to swing your tale on its way."
"Then here goes," said Martin, "and I only pray you to set your
sympathies also in motion while I endeavor to keep them going with
the story of Proud Rosalind and the Hart-Royal."
PROUD ROSALIND AND THE HART-ROYAL
There was once, dear maidens, a man-of-all-trades who lived by the
Ferry at Bury. And nobody knew where he came from. For the chief of
his trades he was an armorer, for it was in the far-away times when
men thought danger could only be faced and honor won in a case of
steel; not having learned that either against danger or for honor
the naked heart is the fittest wear. So this man, whose name was
Harding, kept his fires going for men's needs, and women's too; for
besides making and mending swords and knives and greaves for the
one, he would also make brooches and buckles and chains for the
other; and tools for the peasants. They sometimes called him the Red
Smith. In person Harding was ruddy, though his fairness differed
from the fairness of the natives, and his speech was not wholly
their speech. He was a man of mighty brawn and stature, his eyes
gleamed like blue ice seen under a fierce sun, the hair of his head
and his beard glittered like red gold, and the finer hair on his
great arms and breast overlaid with an amber sheen the red-bronze of
his skin. He seemed a man made to move the mountains of the world;
yet truth to tell, he was a most indifferent smith.
(Martin: Are you not quite comfortable, Mistress Jane?
Jane: I am perfectly comfortable, thank you, Master Pippin.
Martin: I fancied you were a trifle unsettled.
Jane: No, indeed. What would unsettle me?
Martin: I haven't the ghost of a notion.)
I have heard gossips tell, but it has since been forgotten or
discredited, that this part of the river was then known as Wayland's
Ferry; for this, it was said, was one of the several places in
England where the spirit lurked of Wayland the Smith, who was the
cunningest worker in metal ever told of in song or story, and he had
come overseas from the North where men worshiped him as a god. No
one in Bury had ever seen the shape of Wayland, but all believed in
him devoutly, for this was told of him, and truly: that any one
coming to the ferry with an unshod steed had only to lay a penny on
the ground and cry aloud, "Wayland Smith, shoe me my horse!" and so
withdraw. And on coming again he would find his horse shod with a
craft unknown to human hands, and his penny gone. And nobody thought
of attributing to Harding the work of Wayland, partly because no
human smith would have worked for so mean a fee as was accepted by
the god, and chiefly because the quality of the workmanship of the
man and the god was as dissimilar as that of clay and gold.
Besides his trade in metal, Harding also plied the ferry; and then
men would speak of him as the Red Boatman. But he could not be
depended on, for he was often absent. His boat was of a curious
shape, not like any other boat seen on the Arun. Its prow was curved
like a bird's beak. And when folk wished to go across to the
Amberley flats that lie under the splendid shell which was once a
castle, Harding would carry them, if he was there and neither too
busy nor too surly. And when they asked the fee he always said,
"When I work in metal I take metal. But for that which flows I take
only that which flows. So give me whatever you have heart to give,
as long as it is not coin." And they gave him willingly anything
they had: a flower, or an egg, or a bird's feather. A child once
gave him her curl, and a man his hand.
And when he was neither in his workshop or his boat, he hunted on
the hills. But this was a trade he put to no man's service. Harding
hunted only for himself. And because he served his own pleasure more
passionately than he served others', and was oftener seen with his
bow than with hammer or oar, he was chiefly known as the Red Hunter.
Often in the late of the year he would be away on the great hills of
Bury and Bignor and Houghton and Rewell, with their beech-woods
burning on their sides and in their hollows, and their rolling
shoulders lifted out of those autumn fires to meet in freedom the
freedom of the clouds.
It was on one of his huntings he came on the Wishing-Pool. This pool
had for long been a legend in the neighborhood, and it was said that
whoever had courage to seek it in the hour before midnight on
Midsummer Eve, and thrice utter her wish aloud, would surely have
that wish granted within the year. But with time it had become a
lost secret, perhaps because its ancient reputation as the haunt of
goblin things had long since sapped the courage of the maidens of
those parts; and only great-grandmothers remembered how that once
their grandmothers had tried their fortunes there. And its
whereabouts had been forgotten.
But one September Harding saw a calf-stag on Great Down. There were
wild deer on the hills then, but such a calf he had never seen
before. So he stalked it over Madehurst and Rewell, and followed it
into the thick of Rewell Wood. And when it led him to its drinking-
place, he knew that he had discovered one more secret of the hills,
and that this somber mere wherein strange waters bubbled in whispers
could be no other than the lost Wishing-Pool. The young calf might
have been its magic guard. To Harding it was a discovery more
precious than the mere. For all that it was of the first year, with
its prickets only showing where its antlers would branch in time, it
was of a breed so fine and a build so noble that its matchless noon
could already be foretold from its matchless dawn; and added to all
its strength and grace and beauty was this last marvel, that though
it was of the tribe of the Red Deer, its skin was as white and
speckless as falling snow. Watching it, the Red Smith said to
himself, "Not yet my quarry. You are of king's stock, and if after
the sixth year you show twelve points, you shall be for me. But
first, my hart-royal, you shall get your growth." And he came away
and told no man of the calf or of the pool.
And in the second year he watched for it by the mere, and saw it
come to drink, no longer a calf, but a lovely brocket, with its brow
antlers making its first two points. And in the third year he
watched for it again, no brocket now but a splendid spayade, which
to its brows had added its shooting bays; and in the fourth year the
spayade had become a proud young staggarde, with its trays above its
bays. And in the fifth year the staggarde was a full-named stag,
crowned with the exquisite twin crowns of its crockets, surmounting
tray and bay and brow. And Harding lying hidden gloried in it,
thinking, "All your points now but two, my quarry. And next year you
shall add the beam to the crown, and I will hunt my hart."
Now at the time when Harding first saw the calf, and the ruin of the
castle across the ferry was only a ruin, not fit for habitation, it
was nevertheless inhabited by the Proud Rosalind, who dwelt there
without kith or kin. And if time had crumbled the castle to its last
nobility, so that all that was strong and beautiful in it was
preserved and, as it were, exposed in nakedness to the eyes of men:
so in her, who was the ruins of her family, was preserved and
exposed all that had been most noble, strong and beautiful in her
race. She was as poor as she was friendless, but her pride
outmatched both these things. So great was her pride that she
learned to endure shame for the sake of it. She had a tall straight
figure that was both strong and graceful, and she carried herself
like a tree. Her hair was neither bronze nor gold nor copper, yet
seemed to be an alloy of all the precious mines of the turning year--
the vigorous dusky gold of November elms, the rust of dead bracken
made living by heavy rains, the color of beechmast drenched with
sunlight after frost, and all the layers of glory on the boughs
before it fell, when it needed neither sun nor dew to make it glow.
All these could be seen in different lights upon her heavy hair,
which when unbound hung as low as her knees. Her thick brows were
dark gold, and her fearless eyes dark gray with gold gleams in them.
They may have been reflections from her lashes, or even from her
skin, which had upon it the bloom of a golden plum. Dim ages since
her fathers had been kings in Sussex; gradually their estate had
diminished, but with the lessening of their worldly possessions they
burnished the brighter the possession of their honor, and bred the
care of it in their children jealously. So it came to pass that
Rosalind, who possessed less than any serf or yeoman in the
countryside, trod among these as though she were a queen, dreaming
of a degree which she had never known, ignored or shrugged at by
those whom she accounted her equals, insulted or gibed at by those
she thought her inferiors. For the dwellers in the neighboring
hamlets, to whom the story of her fathers' fathers was only a
legend, saw in her just a shabby girl, less worthy than themselves
because much poorer, whose pride and very beauty aroused their
mockery and wrath. They did not dispute her possession of the
castle. For what to them were four vast roofless walls, enclosing a
square of greensward underfoot and another of blue air overhead, and
pierced with doorless doorways and windowless casements that let in
all the lights of all the quarters of the sky? What to them were
these traces of old chambers etched on the surface of the old gray
stone, these fragments of lovely arches that were but channels for
the winds? In the thick of the great towered gateway one little room
remained above the arch, and here the maiden slept. And all her
company was the ghosts of her race. She saw them feasting in the
halls of the air, and moving on the courtyard of the grass. At night
in the galleries of the stars she heard their singing; and often,
looking through the empty windows over the flats to which the great
west wall dropped down, she saw them ride in cavalcade out of the
sunset, from battle or hunt or tourney. But the peasants, who did
not know what she saw and heard, preferred their snug squalor to
this shivering nobility, and despised the girl who, in a fallen
fortress, defended her life from theirs.
At first she had kept her distance with a kind of graciousness, but
one day in her sixteenth year a certain boor met her under the
castle wall as she was returning with sticks for kindling, and was
struck by her free and noble carriage; for though she was little
more than a child, through all her rags she shone with the grace and
splendor not only of her race, but of the wild life she lived on the
hills when she was not in her ruins. She was as strong and fine as a
young hind, and could run like any deer upon the Downs, and climb
like any squirrel. And the dull-sighted peasant, seeing as though
for the first time her untamed beauty, on an impulse offered to kiss
her and make her his woman.
Rosalind stared at him like one aroused from sleep with a rude blow.
The color flamed in her cheek."YOU to accost so one of my blood?"
she cried. "Mongrel, go back to your kennel!"
The lout gaped between rage and mortification, and, muttering, made
a step towards her; but suddenly seeming to think better of it,
Then Rosalind, lifting her glowing face, as beautiful as sunset with
its double flush, rose under gold, saw Harding the Red Hunter gazing
at her. Some business had brought him over the ferry, and on his
road he had lit upon the suit and its rejection. Rosalind, her
spirit chafed with what had passed, returned his gaze haughtily. But
he maintained his steadfast look as though he had been hewn out of
stone; and presently, impatient and disdainful, she turned away.
Then, and instantly, Harding pursued his way in silence. And
Rosalind grew somehow aware that he had determined to stand at gaze
until her eyes were lowered. Thereupon she classed his presumption
with that of the other who had dared address her, and hated him for
taking part against her. Near as their dwellings were, divided only
by the river and a breadth of water-meadow, their intercourse had
always been of the slightest, for Harding possessed a reserve as
great as her own. But from this hour their intercourse ceased
The boor mis-spread the tale of her overweening pride through the
hamlet, and when next she appeared there she was greeted with
"This is she that holds herself unfit to mate with an honest man!"
cried some. And others, "Nay, do but see the silken gown of the
great lady Rosalind, see the fine jewels of her!" "She thinks she
outshines the Queen of Bramber's self!" scoffed a woman. And a man
demanded, "What blood's good enough to mix with hers, if ours be
"A king's!" flashed Rosalind. And even as she spoke the jeering
throng parted to let one by that elbowed his way among them; and a
second time she saw the Red Hunter come to halt and fix her before
all the people. Now this time, she vowed silently, you may gaze till
night fall and day rise again, Red Man, if you think to lower my
eyes in the presence of these! So she stood and looked him in the
face like a queen, all her spirit nerving her, and the people knew
it to be battle between them. Harding's great arms were folded
across his breast, and on his countenance was no expressiveness at
all; but a strange light grew and brightened in his eyes, till
little by little all else was blurred and hazy in the girl's sight,
and blue fire seemed to lap her from her tawny hair to her bare
feet. Then she knew nothing except that she must look away or burn.
And her eyes fell. Harding walked past her as he had done before,
and not till he was out of hearing did the bystanders begin their
"A king's blood for the lady that droops to a common smith!" cried
"She shall swing his hammer for a scepter!" cried they.
" Shall sit on's anvil for a throne!" cried they.
" Shall queen it in a leathern apron o' Sundays!" cried they.
Rosalind fled amid their howls of laughter. She hated them all, and
far beyond them all she hated him who had lowered her head in their
It was after this that the Proud Rosalind--
(But here, without even trouble to finish his sentence, Martin
Pippin suddenly thrust with his foot at the seat of the swing,
nearly dislodging Jane with the action; who screamed and clutched
first at the ropes, and next at the branches as she went up, and
last of all at Martin as she came down. She clutched him so
piteously that in pure pity he clutched her, and lifting her bodily
out of her peril set her on his knee.
Martin: (with great concern): Are you better, Mistress Jane?
Jane: Where are your manners, Master Pippin?
Martin: My mother mislaid them before I was born. But are you better
Jane: I am not sure. I was very much upset.
Martin: So was I.
Jane: It was all your doing.
Martin: I could have sworn it was half yours.
Jane: Who disturbed the swing, pray?
Martin: Every effect proceeds from its cause. The swing was
disturbed because I was disturbed.
Jane: Every cause once had its effect. What effected your
disturbance, Master Pippin?
Martin: Yours, Mistress Jane.
Martin: Confess that you were disturbed.
Jane: Yes, and with good cause.
Martin: I can't doubt it. Yet that was the mischief. I could find no
logical cause for your disturbance. And an illogical world proceeds
from confusion to chaos. For want of a little logic my foot and your
swing passed out of control.
Jane: The logic had only to be asked for, and it would have been
Martin: Is it too late to ask?
Jane: It is never too late to be reasonable. But why am I sitting
on-- Why am I sitting here?
Martin: For the best of reasons. You are sitting where you are
sitting because the swing is so disturbed. Please teach me to be
reasonable, dear Mistress Jane. Why were you disturbed?
Jane: Very well. I was naturally greatly disturbed to learn that
your heroine hated your hero. Because it is your errand to relate
love-stories; and I cannot see the connection between love and hate.
Could two things more antagonistic conclude in union?
Martin: A button and buttonhole. For one is something and the other
nothing, and what in the very nature of things could be more
antagonistic than these?
So saying, he tore a button from his shirt and put it into her hand.
"Don't drop it," said Martin,"because I haven't another; and
besides, every button-hole prefers its own button. Yet I will never
ask you to re-unite them until my tale proves to your satisfaction
that out of antagonisms unions can spring."
"Very well," said Jane; and she took out of her pocket a neat little
housewife and put the button carefully inside it. Then she said,
"The swing is quite still now."
"But are you sure you feel better?" said Martin.
"Yes, thank you," said Jane.)
It was after this (said Martin) that the Proud Rosalind became known
by her title. It was fastened on her in derision, and when she heard
it she set her lips and thought: "What they speak in mockery shall
be the truth." And the more men sought to shame her, the prouder she
bore herself. She ceased all commerce with them from this time. So
for five years she lived in great loneliness and want.
But gradually she came to know that even this existence of
friendless want was not to be life, but a continual struggle-with-
death. For she had no resources, and was put to bitter shifts if she
would live. Hunger nosed at her door, and she had need of her pride
to clothe her. For the more she went wan and naked, the more men
mocked her to see her hold herself so high; and out of their hearts
she shut that charity which she would never have endured of them. If
she had gone kneeling to their doors with pitiful hands, saying, "I
starve, not having wherewithal to eat; I perish, not having
wherewithal to cover me"--they would perhaps have fed and clothed
her, aglow with self-content. But they were not prompt with the
charity which warms the object only and not the donor; and she on
her part tried to appear as though she needed nothing at their
One evening when the woods were in full leaf, and summer on the edge
of its zenith, Proud Rosalind walked among the trees seeking green
herbs for soup. She had wandered far afield, because there were no
woods near the castle, standing on its high ground above the open
flats and the river beyond. But gazing over the water she could see
the groves and crests upon the hills where some sustenance was. The
swift way was over the river, but there was no boat to serve her
except Harding's; and this was a service she had never asked of old,
and lately would rather have died than ask. So she took daily to the
winding roads that led to a distant bridge and the hills with their
forests. This day her need was at its sorest. When she had gathered
a meager crop she sat down under a tree, and began to sort out the
herbs upon her knees. One tender leaf she could not resist taking
between her teeth, that had had so little else of late to bite on;
and as she did so coarse laughter broke upon her. It was her rude